The common ground-dove is the smallest of our commonly encountered dove species with a length of only 6 ½ inches. It has a sandy-tan back, wings speckled with black, and a paler breast, head, and neck—scaled with white. The ground-dove’s plumage is ideal for camouflage. When disturbed or scared, the ground-dove will burst into the air, fluttering its wings loudly and ducking for cover elsewhere. In flight, the most identifiable field marks are large rufous patches in its rounded wings and a stubby black tail. But up close, this dove has red eyes and a pinkish bill tipped in black.
The common ground-dove’s call is a rising woot-woot-woot repeated on the same note in a series.
You can find this bird in open brushy areas, farmlands, orchards, pinewoods, savannas, and weedy roadsides across the southeastern United States. They like these weedy but open areas so they have a place to flee to if a predator approaches or danger threatens. Look for them on the ground, bobbing along quietly, pecking at weed seeds. When they are not foraging for food on the ground, you will find them roosting in trees, resting while they digest food. Ground-doves are also quick to occupy disturbed, burned, mowed, or logged areas where weeds produce large seed crops.
Common ground-doves like open, weedy ground and brush habitat. They can be attracted by allowing a portion of your property to become naturally “messy” or by scattering mixed seed, cracked corn, millet, milo, and other seeds along the ground within a few yards of thick cover. And of course, like all doves, the common ground-dove will patronize a source of clean water like a birdbath, especially those that are at or near ground level.
Common ground-doves will not be receiving any awards for their nests’ architecture. Their nests can be shallow depressions on the ground lined with grasses or a flimsy platform of sticks placed low in a thicket or vine tangle. One to three eggs are laid and incubated for about two weeks. Hatchlings remain in the nest for 10 to 13 days before fledging. Common ground-doves may produce multiple broods in a year.